CHAIN REACTION

THE IMPACT OF RACE, RIGHTS, AND TAXES ON AMERICAN POLITICS

An incisive analysis from Washington Post journalist Edsall (The New Politics of Inequality, 1984) of the political equivalent of a continental drift: the electoral realignment in which Republicans have won the White House five out of the last six times since 1964. Edsall's explanation for this shift is not unique: The GOP, he says, has used two overlapping issues, race and taxes, to splinter the old New Deal coalition, pitting whites—resentful of busing, affirmative action, and other federal remedies to aid blacks and other minorities—against these programs' beneficiaries. Edsall traces how Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon, with varying degrees of success, exploited these issues as well as the cultural tensions arising from the 60's rights revolution on behalf of other groups (e.g., criminal defendants, gays, the handicapped). The now-familiar scenario found ``Reagan Democrats'' (southern white populists and northern blue-collar ethnics) linking with affluent Republicans in shifting government benefits away from recipients of liberal largesse. Although giving only glancing attention to the influence of war-and-peace issues on the electorate, Edsall impressively supports his analysis of the Democratic decline at the presidential level with extensive polling and demographic data, interviews with lapsed Democrats, and a devastating portrait of liberalism at bay, ``intellectually fearful'' of addressing the ills of the black underclass and thus continuing to alienate disaffected voters and leaving the party a toothless defender of the working class and poor. A powerful companion to Nicholas Lemann's The Promised Land (p. 32) and Kevin Phillips's The Politics of Rich and Poor (1990) in detailing the racial and class tensions that are rending America's social fabric and poisoning its body politic.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-02983-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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